PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Rep. David Cicilline stood side-by-side with advocates and victims’ families outside the Nonviolence Institute.
Cicilline has been a fierce supporter of gun control legislation for years. But more than one week after the nation’s deadliest school shooting since 2012, he believes more needs to be done.
“This gun violence epidemic is uniquely American,” Cicilline said. “It is no coincidence that we have the most guns per capita and the most gun deaths per capita as we continue to fail to pass commonsense solutions.”
“This failure to act is literally killing people,” he continued. “There is no excuse for allowing the continued slaughter of our children, our neighbors, of 111 people who are shot and killed each and every day in America.”
Cicilline’s frustrations reached a boiling point during a hearing Thursday night, during which the House Judiciary Committee was considering a number of gun control bills.
“You know who didn’t have their constitutional right to life respected?” he asked his colleagues. “The kids at Parkland, and Sandy Hook, and Uvalde, and Buffalo … the list goes on and on. So spare me the bull— about constitutional rights.”
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He stood by those remarks Friday afternoon.
“We refuted their claim that there’s nothing they can do about it, that this is all really terrible and boy they wish they could help,” Cicilline said of his Republican colleagues. “That’s just baloney.”
The discussions centered around legislation that would raise the legal age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, which cleared committee and is now heading to the House for a full vote.
Other proposals up for consideration include expanding background checks for gun purchases and incentivizing red-flag laws.
Critics argue that the focus should be placed not on the weapons themselves, but on improving access to mental health resources and tightening school security.
Brenda Jacob, president of the Rhode Island Revolver and Rifle Association, believes these tragedies shouldn’t be politicized.
“None of them are going to prevent any tragedies,” Jacob said of the proposals. “There’s just no way that they’ll stop crime, they’re not going to stop evil people.”
Gemelya Barros, whose daughter was shot and killed in Providence more than a decade ago, disagrees.
“Now is the time that we take deaths and threats seriously,” Barro said. “We need action now. It’s not will someone in Rhode Island commit a mass shooting, it’s when? We can’t wait for this to happen to react.”
Cicilline urged his colleagues to look at the bigger picture when deciding whether the proposals being considered are worth fighting for.
“Stop saying nothing in this legislation will change anything,” he said. “There have been lots of reasonable restrictions that make it clear the Second Amendment, like every constitutional right, is not absolute.”